Bradley County & Amazon; Enough jobs, workers, distance?
Concerns range from traffic, to proximity, to whether 'local' workers would fill all the seasonal openings.
By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter
BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Rosina 'Rose' Ketchum might be an exception among her immediate neighbors off Mouse Creek Road in Bradley County.
She welcomes the Amazon.com 'Fulfillment Center' proposed to be built off Lauderdale Memorial Highway and I-75's exit 33, though it would be only a few hundred yards from her back tree-line.
"It'll create more jobs," she says. "Depending on how far back they'll be,I don't think we'll have a problem with it."
Amazon has offered to create about 226 full time jobs at the Bradley County center. That's barely a fifth of the number proposed for a like facility in Hamilton County's Enterprise South Industrial Park.
But Bradley County's P.I.L.O.T. (payment in lieu of taxes) proposal calls for Amazon to pay half of the taxes on real property and equipment for the next ten years; a deal that could let $2.44 million dollars. Hamilton County's deal abates 100 percent of those taxes for 11 years.
"The traffic won't be affecting them (the neighbors) that much, I don't think," Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis says. "They'll have their own entrance off Lauderdale Highway."
"The jobs force in this region is there. I think that's why they're coming."
"I don't think we want to put on the brakes," says Ooltewah resident John Harris. "We just want to make sure the city and counties get the best deal for us."
Harris' group, Citizens for Responsible Growth, wants to make sure Amazon's hiring remains local. In Kansas and Kentucky, Amazon has set up RV parks and campgrounds for migrant employees in the months preceding Christmas; the busy season.
Amazon's Policy Director, Fred Kiga, maintains those facilities are exceptions.
"The population where this facilities are located are inadequate for meeting the needs of these facilities," Kiga told reporters shortly after the Hamilton County Commission approved a tax breaks package December 1.
Kiga has stopped short of guaranteeing that Amazon would not use 'camper-workers' in the Tennessee Valley. But Hamilton and Bradley County officials insist such workers wouldn't be necessary
"Right now, with unemployment as high as it is, we could fill all the full-time as well as the seasonal," Mayor Davis says.
Amazon has projected it could hire as many as 2,000 seasonal employees in Hamilton County; 600 to 800 in Bradley County.
Harris would prefer to have everybody's position in writing.
"What I think our county and city leaders should do is understand the issue and address it beforehand," Harris says, "So everybody is working on the same page."